Friday, November 19, 2010

LiveMocha and Busuu

Just received this email reminder:
Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini said, “A different language is a different vision of life." As a member of Livemocha you know learning a new language is more than grammar and vocabulary - you're experiencing new cultures and bringing the world closer through language! Return to Livemocha and continue to learn and contribute to the global community.
There's also BUSUU offering six European languages.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Revitalisation of Australia’s Indigenous languages

"Re-awakening languages: theory and practice in the revitalisation of Australia’s Indigenous languages" Edited by John Hobson, Kevin Lowe, Susan Poetsch and Michael Walsh. Sydney University Press. ISBN: 9781920899554 And this potent quote was on the email from John Hobson that brought me notice of the book.
"When you lose a language, you lose a culture, intellectual wealth, a work of art. It's like dropping a bomb on a museum, the Louvre." Comment by the late Kenneth Hale, cited in The Economist (November 3,2001).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Budget cuts to schools hurt health, business and foreign languages.

Budget cuts to schools hurt health, business and foreign languages. [The Daily News Online]
"Foreign language instruction has never been a strong suit for American public education. There are relatively few strong foreign language offerings at the elementary and middle-school levels. Most high schools around the country offer basic introductory courses in just a couple of languages. Opportunities for language study have declined in recent years. John Schmid of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that, "From 1997 to 2008, the share of all U.S. elementary schools offering language classes fell from 31 percent to 25 percent, while middle schools dropped from 75 percent to 58 percent." These are the latest figures from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Linguistics. But anecdotal evidence suggests that this trend has continued and may have accelerated with the recession."
"For both the student and the nation, the ability to speak another language is a difference maker as far as competing in the global market place. Indeed, it's small world. That's something most other nations have long recognized. Most country's in Europe and Asia make foreign language study compulsory from elementary school through high school."

Did you spot the grammar/punctuation error in the above? That's ironic in an article lamenting the decline of language study. Foreign language study definitely makes us more aware of accuracy in speaking and writing conventions. Hey, we all make typos and spelling errors - to err is human (and common in journalese). And there's no fun being a stuck up language maven. Language is all about flexibility (variability in systematicity, M Long) and the more language(s) you know the easier it becomes for the brain to adapt and enjoy linguistic variety through established systems, or even creatively disrupting them. To be blithely unaware and not even proficiently monolingual is pure disadvantage. To be obstinately monolingual and monocultural is dangerous.

Education systems of the world, do your job - for your people! Invest in languages education.

Monday, November 8, 2010


"I should have worn jeans and a Hawaiian shirt; everyone thinks Australia is an outpost of America anway. I should have been a walking cliché; clichés make people relax. They stop asking questions. They assume they know." [Roberta Lowing, 2010, Notorious, Allen and Unwin, p.30.]

Language champions

This is an inspiring little collection of pages at Asia Education FOundation. The quotes from Major Michael Stone are brilliant, especially from a humane military man. It would be good to get school students to debate these claims, shake students out of apathy. Michael Stone and Gen. Peter Cogsgrove ask, how do we avoid the obscenity and stupidity of war except by intelligence, respect and responsibility? We in advanced countries have responsibility to forestall misunderstanding by being able to communicate with different others in their languages. To be educated to high levels only in technical and economic matters is to deny that human cultures are rich, complex and diverse, so of course cross-cultural relationships are challenging. To refuse to make the persistent effort is obstinate ignorance that leads to the deaths in war of our children. Debate that.

Two only sample quotes:

Language skills form the foundation for ‘relationship building’, life’s greatest skill and ‘force multiplier’.

Many of the world’s problems could be dealt with peacefully if we had the skills to listen to each other. Learning each other’s Languages is critical in this regard.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Forgetting the culture of cake

Forgetting the culture of cake Scott Steensma November 03, 2010
"My sister and I are the products of what could be seen as a perfect example of migrant assimilation. We are the second generation of a family that arrived in Australasia with minimal English and no friends, slotted themselves into menial work and adapted to an alien culture where cake was strictly avoided before 10am. On the surface we are textbook examples of what many say migrants should do when they arrive in Australia. Under the surface the waves of shock and cultural loss still ring through our family."[Winner of a MARGARET DOOLEY AWARD for young writers]. A very touching and thoughtful reflection.