Fighting for the Scots Language in School

Just in time for Robert Burn’s birthday, a group of more than 80 academics and language activists released an open letter to Michael Russell, the Scottish Education Secretary, calling for increased, compulsory study of the Scots language and Scots literature in Scottish schools.

The letter, excerpted here in The Herald, requests that the study of Scots be made mandatory in school and that Scots literature be included in exams. It also requests that a Scots language department be created within the Scottish Education Quality and Improvement Agency.

The letter also sternly upbraids the Scottish Government for not doing more to promote the language, saying

“Successive Scottish ministers and education policy makers have said Scotland’s language and literature are important to learning and teaching in this country. But each administration has failed to invest adequately in training and resources to ensure this engagement actually takes place. The result is that Scotland has a teaching profession often ill-equipped to teach Scotland’s young people about their own country’s language and literature.”

Read more

Bahasa Indonesia Giving Way To English

Bahasa Indonesia is the national language of Indonesia, and has long been considered the linguistic glue that binds together the many different groups of people that make up the Indonesian nation.  However, as  educating children in English grows in popularity, an increasing number of Indonesian children are growing up with Indonesian skills that are poor or nonexistent, according to the New York Times.

Although Indonesian public schools teach classes in Bahasa Indonesia, speaking English fluently is considered a sign of high social status. Of course, every parent wants what’s best for their child, so Indonesian families with the means to do so began sending their little ones to English private schools instead of the public schools. At these schools, all lessons are given in English. The schools also encourage parents to expose their children to as much English (and as little Indonesian) as possible.

The result is native Indonesian kids who struggle with the Indonesian language, creating a language divide that cuts family members off from each other and may eventually threaten Indonesia’s sense of unity.

For example, Uchu Riza, the owner of an Indonesian private school that educates its students in both languages, told the New York Times:

“In some families, the grandchildren cannot speak with the grandmother because they don’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. That’s sad.”

To fix the problem, the Indonesian government intends to require the private schools to start offering instruction in both English and Indonesian. Mr. Suyanto, an official at the Education Ministry, told the Times that regulation was needed because:

“If we don’t regulate them, in the long run this could be dangerous for the continuity of our language. If this big country doesn’t have a strong language to unite it, it could be dangerous.”

Fortunately, some Indonesian families are also beginning to realize that sacrificing Indonesian language skills for fluency in English comes at a price. For example, the Times interviewed mother named Della Raymena Jovanka, who said that while she wanted her son to become fluent English, she was considering putting him back in public school, saying:

“He’s Indonesian. He lives in Indonesia. If he can’t communicate with people, it’ll be a big problem.”

British Sign Language Videos for Children

Today is not a day like the others for me. It’s 8am on a Tuesday in mid-September and I’m heading to our studio located in the heart of Milton Keynes. Our British Sign Language Interpreter and Lip Speaking experts are already here; ready to start the translation of some educational material. The script covers everything from letters, numbers, domestic animals, activities, foods, drinks and other everyday items found around the school and home… It’s a lot of work to get through but we are all very motivated and passionate about the project and can’t wait to start!

Why? I mean, don’t get me wrong translating animals, drinks and food is great but most important these videos are destined to school and pre-school children with hearing and learning difficulties. Thanks to these videos, they will be able to learn new words, concepts and things from everyday life. This might seem like a small contribution but it means a lot to me, being able to contribute to their wellbeing and their development is an essential reward.

Behind the Scenes

First, back to the basics. For those who don’t know what a BSL Interpreter and a Lip Speaking experts do, I will try my best to explain. The role of the Interpreter is to interpret each word, then spell the individual letters of the word using Finger Spelling. The Lip Speaking expert has to speak in a way where the words are almost over-pronounced, allowing individuals with hearing difficulties to read the lips of the person on screen. Everybody following? Great. Read more

Removal of Language Learning Requirements for Teenagers

In England, concern has been growing that the country’s students are falling behind when it comes to learning other languages.

In 2004, England stopped requiring that students over the age of 14 take classes in a foreign language. Since then, the percentage of students that have chosen to take foreign language classes has continued to drop. For example, according to the BBC, the number of students taking French GCSE has fallen 30% in the past 4 years.

Most of the other countries in the European Union require secondary school students to continue taking foreign language courses, so there is a concern that England will be at a competitive disadvantage in today’s global economy.

There are several advantages to becoming fluent in another language. First, it can make you more employable, especially as more and more companies start to do business internationally. Second, learning a foreign language can improve your speaking and writing skills in English.

For example, an American study completed in 1992 by the College Entrance Examination Board found that students who had studied a foreign language for 4 or more years scored higher on the verbal section of the SAT than students who had not. Other studies have shown that learning a foreign language boosts creativity and math skills as well.

With language learning becoming increasingly important, why did England choose to drop the language learning requirement for children over the age of 14?

According to the BBC, the change was made as part of a package of curriculum reform with the intention of reducing truancy among secondary school students. England’s government began pushing hard to reduce truancy in the early part of this decade, even going so far as to put parents in jail when their teenage children consistently skipped school.

The thought was that kids who didn’t want to be in school anyway would probably be more interested in vocational courses than in learning a foreign language, so the requirement was dropped.

Starting in 2011, language learning classes will be required for primary school students instead. Hopefully, children who start learning languages early will feel more inclined to keep studying them as they get older.