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Young Interpreters

Today teachers in Britain have to cope with young children who have very little or no grasp of the English language. It is understandably difficult for the children who often misbehave due to the language barriers they face.

A school in Devon may have the answer. They have encouraged a small group of their students, many of whom came to England from foreign countries, to act as interpreters helping the new students to fit in.

Students in the group like Newsround Press Packer Angela have learnt basic language skills to help those with limited English in their class. Using a range of tools like picture cards, hand gestures and a basic language prompt sheets they are able to help the new student to fit in, learn English and therefore help improve their overall education.

It is so nice to read about young people being positive about language and helping each other to learn new skills, developing those skills for the future.

Learning languages in the United Kingdom is no longer very popular. Perhaps this is because to learn to read, write and speak a new language is very difficult and everyone speaks English so why should they bother. The latter is a common misconception believed by many adults and children.

The key to getting kids into languages seems to be to start teaching them at a young age, right when they begin learning in their first year at school. After all our first 3-4 years at school are probably the most progressive after that we are building on knowledge we already have. Children learn so quickly at that age reading, writing, basic maths and science skills why not teach them basic language skills as well.

With advances in technology most schools are now equipped with computers which could also be used to aid learning. In previous years children were often encouraged to write to a foreign pen pal. With access to the internet children could now talk to students in a foreign country via a web cam. Multimedia tools make the experience of learning a language much more fun.

Let them try out different languages, they might find one more interesting or fun to learn, which may retain their attention into adult life. Learning a language could make them stand out from the crowd when they start working.

In today’s multicultural business environment the ability to speak a foreign language is a huge advantage. It would be great to see more schools across the United Kingdom using students to help foreigners learn English developing each child for the better.

The Language of Golf

Golf is a terrific sport and great way to meet interesting people. To help you get out there and start playing I’ve prepared a quick A to Z of some of the language you’ll hear on the course.

Action: Backspin on ball causing it to stop dead or spin backwards.

Albatross: 3 under par on one hole.

Approach shot: Hitting the ball to the green.

Birdie: 1 under par on one hole.

Bogey: 1 over par on one hole.

Divot:    The piece of turf that flies out when a shot is hit on the fairway.

Dogleg:  A hole where the fairway turns to the right of left.

Double Bogey: 2 over par on one hole. Read more

Teaching Language With Twitter

Your mental image of a knight probably includes weapons like a sword or a lance. However, a university professor in the United States just earned a knighthood using more modern weapons, specifically Twitter, Facebook and Skype.  According to WACH, a local Fox News affiliate, Dr. Lara Lomicka Anderson will be knighted by the French government for incorporating these technologies into her foreign language classes.

Dr. Anderson teaches French to students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She is being made a Chevalier of the Order des Palmes Academiques for her innovative teaching techniques that include the use of tools like Twitter as well as international travel. As Dr. Anderson explained to WACH,  “One way I do that is through a partnership with a school in France located outside of Paris, and we use all of these technologies to promote a collaborative partnership among students.”

The two schools partner so that the US students can learn French and the French students can learn English. Each student is assigned a partner from the other school. Social networking technologies like Facebook, Skype and Twitter become the glue that hold these partnerships together, giving students a convenient way to practice languages with each other.  After a year’s worth of study, the American students then travel to France to meet their study partners “in real life.”

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques was instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte  to reward those who “advance the French language.”  This won’t be the first award Dr. Anderson has received for her work- according to a press release from the university, she was also awarded the National Award for Excellence in Technology by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language and Cengage Learning in 2008.

Welsh Language & Culture Festival

This past weekend, on July 30th, Wales kicked off its annual National Eisteddfod in a field in Wrexham. If you’re not from Wales, you may be asking yourself: What, exactly, is an Eisteddfod?

Basically, it’s a yearly festival celebrating Welsh language, literature and culture. Originally, it was a gathering of bards, where poets and musicians came to test their skills against one another. The first such event that we know of was held by Lord Rhys of Cardigan in 1176.

Today, the National Eisteddfod not only includes poetry, literature, dance and musical performances, but also features exhibits devoted to science and technology and booths where Welsh artisans can peddle their wares. The location changes every year, but it is always held in the countryside. The main fairground is known as the maes. Read more

5 Secrets to Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is a fairly common goal, but it can be difficult to accomplish. To help you gain proficiency in the language of your choice, we’ve rounded up the following language learning tips and secrets from real people across the web:

Just Do It (Talking, that Is)

Benny Lewis, who speaks 8 languages fluently and runs the “Fluent in 3 Months” blog, offers this simple tip for beginning language learners as the core of his “Speak from Day One” language learning course: “You just need to speak it. Speak it regularly, speak it confidently, and speak it immediately. The more you speak, the quicker you will improve.”

This is easier said than done, of course. You have to be willing to sound like an idiot. That’s why immersing yourself by traveling to a country where that language is primary is so effective: speaking from personal experience, the only thing worse than having a cashier at an Italian market give you the stink-eye while you try to ask to use the telephone is being stranded at said market because you can’t call your ride. Being in another country forces you to get over your awkwardness and social anxiety.

Even if you can’t travel, though, it’s easy to put this tip into practice. Just find a native speaker, and check your dignity at the door.

Actively Watch Movies

When Lifehacker writer John Smith was learning Spanish, he enhanced his skills by actively watching movies in Spanish-at first with English subtitles, then with Spanish subtitles, and finally with no subtitles at all. He explains his process here. The advantage is that it gives you a “chance to hear a more diverse set of voices saying the same things, and all the while it is reinforcing the basics of the language, the bread and butter phrases that are used the most.”

Know Thyself

Michael Erard, the author of a book on “hyperpolyglots” (people who speak many languages), recently told Time Magazine that one thing the hyperpolygots he interviewed had in common was that “they know how they learn, so they don’t waste time with methods that don’t work for them. An example would be knowing that social interaction is a problem and saying, ‘I’m going to spend time with texts.”

Persistence Pays Off

Another common characteristic of hyperpolyglots? Per Michael Erard, “they don’t give up.” Trying to pick up a new language can make your brain ache, especially if it’s not closely related to the language you already use. Keep trying until it “clicks.”

Learn Passively

This tip also comes from Lifehacker: Modify the environment around you so that it helps you learn your new language passively. That means labeling as many of the objects in your house and office as possible, and also changing the settings on your computer and your phone to make them speak the language you’re learning.

Do you have any other tips that make it easier to learn a new language? Share them in the comments!

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Translation-Glasses

Glasses that Translate Speech?

It might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but according to Reuters, a Japanese company is developing eyeglasses that can translate speech.

The Tele Scouter consists of a pair of eyeglass frames attached to a microphone and a small computer. A tiny display unit is mounted on to the frames. When someone talks to you in a foreign language, the microphone picks up the sound and sends it to be translated. Then, the translated text is sent back and projected into your peripheral vision, so you can read what the other person said while still maintaining eye contact.

Weird, huh? Kotaro Nagahama, a manager at NEC, the company that’s the developing the glasses, explained the potential advantages of the new technology to Reuters:
“With this you don’t have to think about having to translate your own words. All you have to do is speak and you don’t have to do any thinking. You just use your own language.”

Unfortunately, according to PinkTentacle.com, at this point the devices’ translation capabilities are “insufficient for real-world applications.” So, at least for now, the company is focusing on selling the device to businesses and factories, which can use as a hands-free data display device for workers.

Also, it should be noted that even if the devices’ translation capabilities were spot-on, in order for it to truly useful for travelers, both you and the person you are speaking to need to have a pair of these magic glasses. Unless the company plans to incorporate a way to display what you are saying to the other person in their own language, the Tele Scouter appears to only translate one side of the conversation.  According to Reuters, NEC plans to sell the Tele Scouter for a whopping $83,000, so it’s not likely to gain widespread adoption anytime soon.

What do you think-will this idea ever become more than science fiction?

Australian Robots Develop Their Own Language

Robots are the modern-day version of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Writers and filmmakers have been fascinated by the idea of machines rising up against us for decades, long before the technology to create intelligent robots was even available.

Now, in a step toward the dystopian future that’s fueled a thousand science fiction films, a pair of Australian robots called “Lingodroids” have been developing their own language. The two robots, which use wheels to move around and sonar to perceive the world around them, are programmed to play games in the which the object is to find one another. This has allowed them to develop a shared vocabulary, which they use to describe their current location.

As project director Ruth Schulz explained to Reuters, at the moment, their vocabulary is quite limited:

“In their current state all they can talk about is spatial concepts, which I think is pretty cool as a starting point. But the important part is that they are forming these concepts, they are starting to really understand what words mean and this is actually all up to the robots themselves.”

Read more

Irregular Verbs Don’t Like Us

Nobody likes irregular verbs. When it comes to learning a new language, these verbs dance to their own drummer, running roughshod over all of the conjugation rules you worked so hard to memorize. Even native speakers sometimes have trouble with them.

As Dr. Spock would say:

“Humans make illogical decisions. So, why do these “illogical” verb forms persist in the language? New research from Oxford University provides us with some clues toward the answer. In a write-up of the study published on the Science Daily website”

Professor Martin Maiden adds:

“Many people will remember groaning at school when faced with irregular French or Spanish verbs and wondering why they were the way they were. Our work helps to explain why they, and their equivalents in many related languages, not only exist but are even reinforced and replicated over time.”

Read more

Languages Sound Faster Than Others‎

Have you ever wondered why some languages sound faster than others? Researchers at the Universite de Lyon may have stumbled on the answer. They analysed several different languages to determine how much information each one was able to stuff into a single syllable. Then, they had speakers of several different languages read the same texts out loud. Each text had been translated so that the participants were all reading in their native languages. Eight languages were studied: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese.

After listening to the recordings, the researchers used them to figure out how many syllables were spoken per second for each language. According to a write-up of the study published in Time, that led to an “a-ha” moment of sorts:

“A trade-off is operating between a syllable-based average information density and the rate of transmission of syllables. A dense language will make use of fewer speech chunks than a sparser language for a given amount of semantic information.”

Read more

To Speak Like a Native, Learn Like One

Want to speak a new language like a native? Your best bet may be to forgo classroom lessons in favor of immersion (if possible). That, at least, is the conclusion that a group of researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center came to after reviewing results from a recent study that used brain scans to peek into the heads of language learners.

If you’ve studied a foreign language, you might remember being told to try to think in the new language rather than to think in English and then translate. This is still good advice, and the study shows that is definitely possible for students to begin “thinking” in the new language. Georgetown University Medical Center neuroscience professor Michael Ullman explains:

“In the last few years, research has begun to suggest that adults learning a foreign language can come to rely on the same brain mechanisms as native speakers of a language, and that this might be true even for those parts of a foreign language that are particularly difficult to learn, such as its grammar. We confirmed this in our studies.”

When it comes to foreign languages, do we learn best by explanation or by example? You might think that an explanation of the language’s underlying grammatical structure would be helpful, but this study implied it’s not so. To test, the researchers created a very simple language and taught it to the students both ways. Then, they scanned the subjects’ brains while they used their new language skills. According to Ullman,

“Only the immersion training led to full native-like brain processing of grammar. So if you learn a language you can come to use native language brain processes, but you may need immersion rather than classroom exposure.”

The researchers also found that the people taught in a classroom setting got better at “thinking like a native speaker” after a few months, even though they hadn’t been using the language. Still, those who learned the language via immersion still had an edge.

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