US Government Still Short on Translators and Interpreters

English has become one of the most widespread languages worldwide, and that sometimes leads people in English-speaking countries to discount the value of foreign language education. For example, in the United States, census data shows that in 2000, only 9.3 percent of Americans could hold a conversation in another language, and the BBC notes that “the weakness of language learning in England has been a recurrent concern.”  That’s unfortunate, because today the world is more interconnected than ever, and every country needs citizens with foreign language skills.

That need became even more pressing in the United States after 9/11, and the US government’s military and security services are still wrestling with a lack of qualified translators and interpreters. In fact, officials recently testified before the US Congress regarding  the issue, saying that their difficulty in finding qualified applicants for positions that require advanced foreign language skills could negatively impact US national security.

As reported in a press release, Laura Junor, deputy assistant secretary of defense for readiness, told Congress:

“Our current challenge lies in filling language-required positions with personnel that possess the requisite language skills.  We’ve been reducing this deficiency, but we need help. We need our nation’s schools to develop students with these skills from which we can recruit to meet our needs.”

The Washington Post reports that in 2011, just 28 percent of the US Defense Department’s foreign language positions were actually filled by people at the necessary fluency level. About 20 percent were completely vacant, and the rest were filled by people at lower skill levels than the jobs require.

Of course, it’s much easier for young children to become fluent in another language than it is for an adult to start from scratch. And once you’ve learned one language, it’s much easier to pick up a third. Junor told Congress that to address the staffing issues in America’s defense and intelligence agencies,  the country’s schools need to begin emphasizing foreign language learning starting in the youngest grades:

“Studies show that exposure to foreign language and early language learning greatly facilitates language acquisition. Therefore, bringing in individuals with foreign language skills makes it easier to train people to higher levels of proficiency.”

Today Feels Like Alaska

Around 8 inches of snow, minus 9 degrees and we are all wrapped up like we are going to spend a week in an igloo. So yeah, without a doubt, I can say that today feels like Alaska (even if I never went, I can only imagine!) except that we don’t have the beautiful mountains, the wildlife and the breath-taking lakes…other than that, I’m pretty sure that in few years, England will be the new Alaska of Europe. Suddenly I realise that I don’t know much about it except that it’s far away from where I’m at the moment and that it’s really cold. Time to change that and learn few things about this amazing US state…

  1. Alaska is one of the wealthiest nations in North America.
  2. The official language of Alaska is English. While most of the people speak in English, the other recognized languages are Native North American, Spanish, Yupik, Tagalog and Inupiaq.
  3. Alaska’s name is based on the Inuit word Alakshak, meaning great lands or peninsula.
  4. Alaska is larger than the combined area of Texas, California and Montana. It is even larger than 23 smallest U.S. states and districts, combined together.
  5. The capital of Alaska is Juneau, the only capital city in the United States that is accessible by boat or plane only.
  6. Read more

How to Talk Like a Southerner

The southern United States is one of the most famous and culturally distinctive regions of the country. Stereotypes and misconceptions abound- the American South of today doesn’t look much like “Gone with the Wind,” and thankfully, it doesn’t resemble “Deliverance,” either.  However, it does have a dialect all its own. Here are some of the things you might hear people say if you travel there:

Y’all: Short for “you all.”  Example: “Y’all come back now, you hear?”

Bless your little heart: Depending on the situation, this phrase can either be a heartfelt expression of sympathy or a particularly condescending insult.  Example: “Paula Deen has diabetes. Bless her little heart!” “Bless his little heart, he just can’t help it. You can’t fix stupid!”

Toboggan: Everywhere else (except parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio, a commenter has pointed out), a “toboggan” is a sled. In the southern United States, a sled is a sled and a toboggan is a knit cap worn in cold weather. This word is often abbreviated as “boggan.” Example: “Put on your ‘boggan before you go sledding, or you’re like to catch your death of cold!”

Aim to: Intend to or plan to. Example:  “I am to go into the city this weekend.”

Holler: A small, sheltered valley. Example: “My family lives in the holler.”

You might could:  Maybe you can.  Example: “You might could fix it with duct tape.”

No ‘count: Not worth anything. Example: “She married a no ‘count bastard. He just sits at home and drinks beer all day.”

Ain’t: Is not, are not, am not: Example: “We ain’t going out today. That ain’t gonna happen.”

Like to: Likely to, nearly or almost. Example: “I was so surprised I like to died of shock!”

Cat-head: A large, homemade, irregularly-shaped breakfast roll. The rest of the US calls these “biscuits.” Example: “Mama made a pan of cat-heads and gravy for breakfast.”

Coke: Originally short for “Coca-Cola,” this is used in the American South to refer to any carbonated beverage, regardless of brand or flavor. Example: “What kind of Coke would you like? We have regular coke, Sprite and Dr. Pepper.”

Reckon: Guess or suppose. Example: “I reckon we’ll be by about 10 o’clock.”

Do you know anyone from the American South? Share your favorite regional words and sayings in the comments!


President Obama

President Obama in Controversy over Healthcare Translation Policy

Accoring to various news reports there is controversy in the USA this week over ‘ObamaCare’ policies which state proposed healthcare reform plans which include providing on site interpreters for patients who have limited English. The healthcare reform legislation is currently pending in Congress.

English language advocates are up in arms as this could add a significant increase to the cost of healthcare in the USA and they believe it will discourage foreign immigrants from learning English. Surely, in today’s multicultural society the provision of translation services to medical institutions is essential.

America needs to look at itself and its history to see that America was made what it is today by foreign settlers who didn’t all speak English and certainly not American English!

Have some respect for your history and accept the fact that not everyone speaks English. The Spanish for example were one of the first European settlers in the US in 1513. Surely they have a right to speak Spanish if they wish to do so. America is meant to be the ‘Land of the Free’ after all.

Yes it seems logical that if you move to an English speaking country you should learn the lingo but even if you do, when your child is dying in A&E (sorry America suppose that’s ER to you) you may not be able to express what is wrong in your second language. To be sure the patient or their guardian fully understands what is happening it is essential that adequate language translation services are provided.