Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Journee internationale de la Francophonie 20 mars 2014

Journee internationale de la Francophonie 20 mars 2014

“Célébrons les liens puissants que nous confèrent la langue, les valeurs, les espoirs et les ambitions que nous partageons.  Célébrons une manière « francophone » de vivre ensemble, d’être au monde et de concevoir le monde.”

Languages do matter!

A divided Ukraine

A divided Ukraine

“Ukrainian is the official language, spoken by 70% of the country’s population. Russian is also spoken widely and is the mother tongue of many Ukrainians, especially in the east and in the southern region of Crimea, where ethnic Russians are in the majority. Violent protests broke out in the Crimean capital of Simferopol on February 27, against the new order set in motion a week earlier amid mass demonstrations in the country capital of Kiev. Crimea is a bastion of support for ousted President Yanukovych and is also home to Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet, based at Sevastopol.”

Languages do matter!

Shanghai dialect locked in tug of war with Mandarin

Shanghai dialect locked in tug of war with Mandarin

“In early January, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, issued a notice stating that all TV and radio programs must use Mandarin and should avoid dialects and foreign languages. The measure was aimed at further promoting the use of Mandarin, or putonghua (“common speech”), and regulating the use of alternative languages on TV shows.

Research conducted by the Shanghai Statistics Bureau in February supported Yin’s assertion. It found that Shanghai residents now use Mandarin more frequently in their daily lives, to the detriment of Shanghainese.

Mandarin, once known as “Beijing dialect”, was first selected as China’s national language in the 1910’s, because of the “Beijing accent being dominant and combining certain elements of other northern and southern dialects.” But it wasn’t until the late 1940’s, with the founding of the People’s Republic of China, that Mandarin was designated as “standard” Chinese.

In October 2000, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language was adopted. It regulated and encouraged the use of Mandarin in the media, education and the public-service industry.”

Languages do matter!

Journalist Ó Domhnaill named language commissioner

Journalist Ó Domhnaill named language commissioner

Nuacht RTÉ political correspondent to succeed Seán Ó Cuirreáin as Coimisinéir Teanga

The Government has announced today that  Rónán Ó Domhnaill, Nuacht RTÉ/TG4’s political correspondent, has been nominated as the next Irish language commissioner.

This is the second time a journalist has been appointed to the role of Coimisinéir Teanga.”

Languages do matter!


HN: Czechs’ interest in elite secondary schools rising

HN: Czechs’ interest in elite secondary schools rising

“More and more Czechs want to send their children to elite secondary schools teaching in English and other foreign languages, despite high fees, since their graduates have higher chances of studying at prestigious universities abroad.

An increasing number of Czechs prefer investing in their kids’ high-quality education to buying a new car or a house.”

Languages do matter!

Are musicians better language learners?

Are musicians better language learners?

Children who learn music from a young age find it easier to learn languages even in adulthood, research has found

Research has found that children who study music before the age of seven develop bigger vocabularies, a better sense of grammar and a higher verbal IQ

According to the studies, just  one hour a week of learning music is enough for the full brain benefits to take place  – including an all-round boost in language skills and a significant increase in IQ.”

Languages do matter!

Doctors from the EU to face language tests for the first time in 30 years to improve patient safety

Doctors from the EU to face language tests for the first time in 30 years to improve patient safety

“Doctors from the EU to face language tests for the first time in 30 years to improve patient safety.

  • Doctors from overseas wanting  to practise in UK will need to achieve score of 7.5 out of 9 in the  International English Language Testing System test 
  • If they fail to meet these requirements, they could be struck off
  • New plans would also allow the GMC to assess any doctor if language concerns arise during a fitness-to-practise investigation.”

Languages do matter!

The Power of Global Learning: Making the Foreign Familiar

The Power of Global Learning: Making the Foreign Familiar

“Knowing a second language is a transferable skill and highly valued in the workplace. Right now, nurses, doctors and lawyers are just some of the professions where having a working knowledge of a second language can lead to increased pay. It makes an employee marketable. By equipping disadvantaged students with this highly coveted skill, that I knew demanded premiums across many sectors, I knew immediately that these children would become more employable.

At a time when college graduates under 25 years old have a 36 percent rate of under-employment, to equip a disadvantaged child with a skill means that they can monetize as a translator or an interpreter in the travel or medical field. This is a game changer as it offers young people an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty within their own communities.

They could go from a $10-an-hour job at McDonalds to making $75 as an interpreter. While many people are facing unemployment, these students equipped with a marketable skill can literally spin the globe and decide where they want to live and work.

They go from being “counted out” to “counted on.” With the global economy familiarizing foreign languages and cultures, knowing a second language will be a decisive factor in the success of all children.”

Languages do matter!

Foreign Language Films at the Oscars: Which Country is Best?

Foreign Language Films at the Oscars: Which Country is Best?

“With the Oscar’s coming up on Sunday we thought it would only make sense to look at one of our favorite categories of cinema: Foreign Language Films. The nominees for the 87th Academy Awards features movies from Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Cambodia, and Palestine. While the other countries have been nominated in the past, this will be Cambodia’s first foray into the Awards. So with so many great foreign films produced annually, the questions begs to be asked: which foreign country produces the best movies?”

Languages do matter!

The benefits of studying a foreign language are immense

The benefits of studying a foreign language are immense

“Multiple studies undertaken by the ACTFL support the time one invests in studying a foreign language. Among many cited are:

• It relates to higher scores on standardized tests.

• It contributes to increases in reading skills.

• It is related to increased ability to hypothesize in science.

• It is related to increased memory skills and problem solving skills.

Jeremy Dean writing in PsyBlog adds these:

• Bilinguals are better at multi-tasking and have longer attention spans.

• It helps to offset age-related memory loss and delay dementia in adults.

These are mostly intellectual blessings, but there are innumerable benefits from the cultural and interpersonal opportunities as well.”

Languages do matter!