Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Social Security en Español etc.?

Much of the discussion about Social Security has been about President Bush’s plan to privatize it lately. The program, however, has been very successful and it looks like Bush will not get his way. One of the successes is the availability of information. The Social Security Administration makes its web site available in 15 different languages: Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Greek, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Those who work, contribute, and eventually deserve to receive benefits will not be prevented from it because they don’t know the English language. The SS Administration even makes interpreters available in many of these languages. Everyone who qualifies for benefits will get them. Almost everyone. Undocumented workers will not. Although the millions of undocumented workers contribute to Social Security under fake names, they will not collect a dime. Billions of these contributions which cannot be determined who actually sent them in go into a "earning suspense file." In the past two decades, the fund has grown to nearly $200 billion.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

One Year Not Enough to Learn English

It happened in California. Research by a state agency found that it takes anywhere from 3-7 years for immigrant kids to learn enough English to qualify for English-only instruction. It also happened in Massachusetts. A recent study found that most Massachusetts immigrant kids do not learn enough English in one year of immersion and cannot transfer to regular classrooms. Both California and Massachusetts virtually dropped bilingual education and replaced it with one year of immersion. Experts have been saying for years that you cannot learn a language in a year in spite of the myth that kids learn languages fast. In fact, the opposite is true. Children learn slowly in comparison to adults. Kids do have an advantage in that they can acquire a native-like pronunciation but adults will typically retain some kind of foreign accent.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Math and Modern Languages Are "Hard" Subjects

The Swedish government is proposing that math and modern languages be given extra weight in high school to encourage more students to study them. Apparently, students are focusing on courses which will give them high grades but little knowledge. Which languages? French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian.
Sweden's education system is focusing on making sure Swedes can operate globally without having to resort to using interpreters. Although Swedes are doing very well with English, English only is not enough. What about Americans? Is English only enough?

Official Languages and Not

Basque, Catalan and Galician languages were not granted official status in the European Union. Gaelic, on the other hand, was granted official status. It will be a boost for the second language of Ireland.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Foreign Languages in Ireland: New Realities

Language study in Ireland should be revised to meet the new needs of the global market, according to a new report issued recently. Most Irish students study languages for historical reasons. French is the most popular with about 75%, German is second with about 20%, Spanish is third with 4%, and Italian fourth with less than 1%.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Teenager Polyglot

He speaks eight languages besides his native Macedonian. Kire Angelov, a teen-ager from Veles, knows English, Italian, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, and the one made up by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien. He has almost finished the creation of his own language, which he called Sinioier (light). Unfortunately, no one else speaks it. Kire has won a scholarship to the United States.