Outrage over French Eurovision Song

French MP Jacques Myard, of the UMP party,was outraged that the song chosen to represent France in last years Eurovision Song Contest had English lyrics.

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest will take place on the 16th of  May in Moscow and the song chosen to represent France will be sung in French (this time). Forty three countries will be taking part; the show is very popular drawing in a television audience of 200 million viewers from Europe and beyond.

The song which was chosen to represent France last year was entitled ‘Divine’,  it combined both English and French lyrics with electro euro pop.

According to the BBC the culture minister in France defended the song saying, the country should fully support his (Sebastien Tellier – Singing ‘Divine’ for France) bid for victory.

Many countries choose to sing in English. Statistically you are more likely to win the competition when singing in English, according to information released by Eurovision.

Rallying Support for Jerriais

Jerriais is the language spoken in Jersey; the language was influenced by many languages from Norse Viking to Frankish. According to the BBC Dr Julia Salabank has set out to compare the language policies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Dr Salabank is a research fellow in endangered languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She will be spending the next two weeks in Jersey researching the language. Jerriais has had official support for some time in the form of L’office du Jerriais. The 2001 census statistics showed that 2,874 people speak Jerriais which is about 3% of the population, around 15% have some kind of understanding of the language.In Jersey around 200 children are currently learning Jerriais, which shows Jersey are working hard to keep the language alive.

GPs Urged to Use More Sign Language Services

Concerns were raised about the lack of sign language services provided by doctor’s surgeries in the UK at the Deaf Day 2009 event in London on the 4th April. People attending the event signed a petition which demands that surgeries use online software called Sign Translate.

SignTranslate is currently a free service for GPs in England, thanks to funding from Sign Health, the health care charity for deaf people.

It is essential that the NHS provide services which mean it can cater for all. Translation services are essential for good communication between the doctor and their patient. Foreign immigrants also often require translation services within the medical environment as the communication must be clear at all times. The patient will feel more comfortable communicating in their preferred or first language.

This free BSL service from SignTranslate was set up in June 2008 and will be free until June 2009. After June 2009 the GPs surgeries will have to pay for this service. Many other companies also provide sign language services at a reasonable cost.

Linguistic Divide in Belgium

Belgium’s European parliament election, which is due to take place on 7th June, has been riddled with feuds over the rights of Dutch and French speakers.

The BBC reports that francophone political parties have been denied billboard space for their election posters in two mainly Dutch speaking municipalities close to Brussels.

Belgian politics closely mirrors the countries deep linguistic divide. Around 60% of Belgium’s population speak Dutch, while 40% speak French. Approximately 100,000 French speakers live in the mainly Dutch speaking suburbs of the capital.

Political paralysis hit Belgium after last year’s general election. With its long running tensions over language rights effecting all parties, it took months for the political parties to form a new coalition.

This is a difficult and very complicated issue for any country to bear.  Can the Belgian politicians work together and learn to communicate despite the language barriers?

Language and Genetic Analysis Sheds Light on the Origins of Humanity

In Africa, a team of researchers has combined linguistic and DNA analysis of African tribes to shed light on the migrations of early humans more than 50,000 years ago.

The study, which has been going on for the past 10 years, is a continuation of an earlier study by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, a geneticist from Standford. During the study, researchers took DNA samples from many remote African tribes, looking at more than 3000 people in 121 population groups. They also compared the results to Europeans and African Americans living in the United States.

By looking at the DNA of the study participants and looking at languages they speak and how they have changed over time, researchers were able to map out the origins of different tribes, showing where their ancestors came from originally. DNA analysis is a great way to discover genetic connections among people, but linguistic analysis often provides a necessary tool to fill in the gaps. The distinctive characteristics of specific language groups can link people across a continent, revealing a common ancestry.

Also, when people migrate, their language is influenced by the language of the areas in which they settle. Borrowed words included in a language can help create a map of the different places the people that speak that language have been, as well as the different groups of people they encountered along the way.

For example, languages with distinctive “clicking” sounds are spoken by tribes spread across the African continent. Researchers think that this language group may be the original language spoken by humans, and DNA analysis confirms that the tribes that speak languages in this group have common ancestors. Based on these migratory patterns, the researchers theorize that modern humans first emerged in southern Africa, near modern-day Namibia, and then began to migrate up to populate the rest of Africa and eventually, the world.

Word Poverty Hits the UK

The BBC has reported that children in England are to be offered lessons to improve their formal English skills amid fears that British children are suffering from “word poverty”. The question is, just because we don’t use a word frequently does that mean we don’t know it or do we have it in mind but choose to use an alternative? Children often use modern or fashionable words which, for example, their grandmother hasn’t heard of. Just because Grandma doesn’t know it doesn’t mean it’s not a word.

A word exists as long as another person understands what you mean. For example the word bling meaning jewellery, Grandma might not know what it means but the child who sits next to you at school knows what you are talking about.

Global Language Monitor (GLM) a US based company have stated that they believe that the one millionth word will be added to the English language sometime in June 09. New words the GLM have been tracking include Obamamania, bankster and bloggerati.

Children’s vocabulary can vary depending on parental guidance/teaching, geographical location, education and life experiences. For example, a child who excels at reading is likely to have a wide vocabulary as they have had more exposure to words, plus their standard education.

English is one of the main core subjects in schools in the UK; do we really need to give children extra lessons? Also should we not encourage children to develop the English language as our ancestors would have done?

The Evolution of Language

As this article on Forbes.com demonstrated, language is never static. It is constantly changing and evolving. But why? Why the English we speak is today different in so many ways from the English our grandparents spoke? Or the English Shakespeare spoke and wrote in?

Language evolves for a number of different reasons. One common reason is to accommodate new concepts or technology. For example, the word “Internet” didn’t exist a hundred years ago because there was no need for it. The word “touchscreen” didn’t exist until we figured out how to make computer and cell phone screens that could sense and respond to human touch.

Language also changes when the commonly understood meanings of words change over time. Sometimes, these changes happen when a new language “need” is created, but sometimes, people just abuse and twist the meaning of words until the “incorrect” word or meaning becomes the “correct” one.

The article referenced above gives several interesting examples. For example, take the word “empower.” Empower used to be strictly legal term, meaning “to give legal authority or power to.” However, over time, talk shows and self-help gurus have twisted the word so that it is commonly understood as “to make someone feel powerful.”

Another interesting example of this phenomenon is the word “literally.” Once upon a time, if you were to say something like “These guys are literally killing me,” you would mean that people were really, seriously trying to kill you-perhaps with a knife. Now, you might just mean that they are seriously giving you a hard time. When used this way, “literally” takes over the meaning of its antonym, “figuratively.” Confusing, isn’t it?

That’s why when you have material translated into another language, it is important to choose knowledgeable translators who are aware of both the “textbook meanings” of different words and the way those words are understood in common use.

Quebec’s Controversial Video Game Language Laws

A recent law passed in Quebec forbids the sale of English only games if a French translation exists or will be released at some point.

Not many games are officially translated into French (or many other languages) and I doubt that gamers will want to wait for them as many games are released in English long before they are translated.

This could be the end of the road for games shops in Quebec as gamers turn to the internet to snap up the latest releases. The goal of the new law is to protect and promote the French language. It will be even harder for local game stores to compete with the internet giants such as Amazon.com which these laws can’t touch.

More and more companies are starting to release translated games, especially for consoles such as the Nintendo DS as many of the games have high text content unlike action games on the Sony Playstation 3 and X-box 360 for example. Although the process of translating a whole game into a different language can be expensive and after translation it must then be thoroughly tested again as code may need to be changed in line with the new text for the game to work correctly.

Games should be available in your choice of language and a professional translation company can help game companies achieve this within budget and on time.

Unfortunately for Canadian games shops the new law is bad news and it won’t be long until these small time stores die a sad and painful death and the internet giants take over.

St. Georges Day

St. George is the patron saint of England. The 23rd April was named as St. George’s day in 1222, he has always been incredibly popular character although perhaps has been slightly forgotten over the years. He is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to Saint Mark).

St. George is best known for slaying a dragon to save a fair maiden although there is no concrete evidence so it is believed that it is a myth, a story told to illustrate St. George’s greatness. There is however evidence that St George was a true martyr who suffered greatly in Lydda before the time of Constaintine. He was an officer in the Roman army; he gave all his possessions away to the poor at the start of the persecution and then confessed to his Christian faith. He refused to sacrifice to the gods and because of this he suffered horrific torture lasting for around 7 years until he was eventually beheaded.

It is a little unclear as to how St. George became patron saint of England. He has been recognised here from around the eight century.

In 1348, King Edward III introduced the battle cry “St. George for England” and later founded the Order of the Garter, with St. George as its patron. He’s popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry – but actually he wasn’t English at all. He’s also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis. In recent years he has been adopted as patron saint of Scouts as well.

It is traditional to wear a red rose in your button hole on St. Georges Day in England. The celebration of St. Georges Day has become more popular in recent years with many promotions and parades going on throughout England.

Sydney School Revives Lost Aboriginal Language

A school in Sydney, Australia is teaching its students Dharug.

What’s so unusual about this foreign language offering? According to an article on Voice of America news, Dharug is an aboriginal language that was once one of the main Aboriginal dialects and was spoken where the city of Sydney stands today. However, it disappeared after British settlers colonized Australia. Chifley College’s Dunheved campus is leading an effort to revive it by teaching to students of both aboriginal and non-indigenous students.

Given the amount of time that has passed since Dharug was used in everyday conversation, experts say that reviving it completely will probably require borrowing words to creating new vocabulary to describe all the new technologies and situations that have become common place since the language disappeared.

Also, Aboriginal languages are not easy to learn. John Hobson, a professor who teaches the languages at Sydney University, describes them as being somewhere in between Japanese and Latin in terms of complexity. However, the students at Chifley College’s Dunheved campus seem to be doing a good job picking up Dharug. Richard Green, the Dharug instructor, told Voice of America, “We’ve already reclaimed it, that’s why there is so much interest. People are already speaking it. They speak our language from here, so when you walk in the school of a morning you hear ‘warami’- hello, good to see you. ”

By preserving and teaching the language, the school is able to pass on a piece of local history to the students. Steve Dargin, a student, told VOA he liked learning the language because “It’s good especially for the blackfellas. You get to talk about your own culture and all that. Learn more stuff, speak it out of school.”