Wednesday, May 31, 2006

1,000 Euros for English?

The cliché of the monolingual American is very well known. Now Spaniards are apparently suffering fro the same “disease.” To redress the situation Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has decided to give young people up to 1,000 euros (680 pounds) each to study English. Although the study of English is mandatory in Spain, only 20% of Spaniards can speak the language, according to a study of the European Union. Spain is one of the “weakest” countries in the knowledge of foreign languages. “Weaker” still are English-speaking Britain and Ireland.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Voting in Español?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales does not favor the prohibition of bilingual ballots. Many House Republicans disagree and would favor the expiration of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. This law requires bilingual ballots if more than 5 percent or 10,000 voting-age citizens in a county don't speak English "very well," according the US Census figures, and are fluent in another language.

When English is King

Although South Africa has 11 official languages , English is the de facto national language, way ahead of Afrikaans. One of the reasons is the power of English in the world which pushes black intellectuals to publish in Shakespeare’s tongue to reach wide audiences.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Only English in the US?

The US Senate voted 63-34 to declare English the national language. One of the requirements for undocumented immigrants to become citizens would be to learn English. Some people believe that passing this kind of legislation will send a strong signal that immigrants should learn English. I have written about this topic many times and will probably do so again in the near future. In the meanwhile you can read articles I wrote about English only in the Japan Times and at La Oferta.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bilingualism Translates into $$$$$

An increase in pay for military personnel proficient in certain foreign languages will become effective in June. Foreign language pay will go up from $300 to $1,000 a month for active military members and to $6,000 a year for reserve and National Guard members. The idea is to increase the capability in languages of strategic importance the Pentagon.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Georgia: Toward Monolingualism?

When school budgets become tight, one of the first things to disappear is the study of foreign languages. Although languages are increasingly becoming more important as the world keeps getting smaller, schools in Georgia are going to drop the teaching of foreign languages in Atlanta schools. While the study of foreign languages in a basic subject in many industrialized countries, in the US it’s a frill which schools think it can be done away. SAD.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More English in South Korea

In South Korea parents spend significant amounts of money to send their kids to bilingual schools (Korean and English). Parents are worried that if their kids do not learn to speak English like natives, they won’t be successful in life.Some South Korean parents are going as far as putting their kids through a frenectomy—a minor surgery which lengthens the tongue by about one millimeter. The idea is that having a longer tongue will significantly affect the kids’ pronunciation when they learn English. Now the government is planning to continue promoting English even more through legislation.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

National Anthem in Spanish and Beyond

President Bush said recently that the “The Star-Spangled Banner” should be sung in English, reacting to the recording of the anthem’s version in Spanish (Nuestro Himno). In fact, there are many translations of the anthem in diverse languages. The U.S. government gave its blessing to a different version 87 years ago. That translation of "The Star-Spangled Banner," has been available on the Library of Congress Web site for two years. Polish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Armenian, versions are also available as well as Samoan and Yiddish. Because of the heated debate about immigration, which many see as Mexican and of course Spanish-language, the singing of the anthem generated controversy. Even Bush’s statement has become controversial since the President apparently sang the anthem in Spanish as well.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Irish Pensions Info in Seven Foreign Languages

Ireland is going multicultural. The Irish government will provide pension information in seven foreign languages including Polish, Arabic, and Chinese. The information will benefit the estimated 200,000 foreign workers in Ireland.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Difficult and Easy Languages

It’s obvious that some languages are easier to learn than others. A lot depends from which language you’re beginning and which is the language you’re learning. For Americans, Romance languages and many other European languages are “easy” to learn. French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, etc. are ranked as category 1, according to the US State Department. Hungarian is placed in Category 2, along with 30 others including Russian, Greek and Thai. Arabic, Cantonese and Japanese were in Category 3, the toughest. The categories are based on how long it takes an average student at the Foreign Service Institute to reach proficiency in the language. To reach level 2+, minimal professional competency, takes about 700 hours of instruction for a category 1 languages. Category 3 takes three times as long.

Difficult and Easy Languages

It’s obvious that some languages are easier to learn than others. A lot depends from which language you’re beginning and which is the language you’re learning. For Americans, Romance languages and many other European languages are “easy” to learn. French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, etc. are ranked as category 1, according to the US State Department. Hungarian is placed in Category 2, along with 30 others including Russian, Greek and Thai. Arabic, Cantonese and Japanese were in Category 3, the toughest. The categories are based on how long it takes an average student at the Foreign Service Institute to reach proficiency in the language. To reach level 2+, minimal professional competency, takes about 700 hours of instruction for a category 1 languages. Category 3 takes three times as long.