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The importance of a phrasebook on holiday…

Recent reports have explained how a Polish man recently spent 18 days in São Paolo’s airport.  Having arrived at the airport on a flight from London the 17th June, he finally left the airport on Tuesday 5th July.  In a story reminiscent of the Tom Hanks film “The Terminal” (though without the appearance of Catherine Zeta Jones, as far as I’m aware), Robert Wladyslaw Parzelski arrived at the airport, on a mission to go to Brazil and then return to England with two telephones.  Why he was undertaking this trip with this particular goal in mind is, as yet, unknown. (more…)

Britain under-represented in European Union Institutions

European Union institutions are currently under-represented by British natives, in part due to low-level language skills. Just 5% of positions in the European Parliament and Commission are filled by Britons, despite the United Kingdom comprising 12% of the total population of the European Union.

English is commonly used as a universal language in international situations and, as we commented in a previous post, the number of students of foreign languages in other European countries is high above the figure in the United Kingdom. What’s amazing to me is that some people still argue that there is no need for native English speakers to learn other languages, when in conducting international relationships with other EU countries, understanding another language, culture and country is paramount. As Michael Shackleton, Head of the London European Parliament Office, commented “The balance of the use of language has been in favour of English, but to understand what people are thinking about you also have to get a sense of them and how they see the world.” (more…)

Do the British mean what they say?

A Spanish friend recently sent me the link to an article published online.  This “guide” explains to the rest of Europe what British people really mean when they say certain things, and what others understand by what has been said.

For example, according to this article, when a British person says “You must come to dinner”, the real meaning is “It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite”, whilst the listener will think “I will get an invitation soon”.  Obviously, this is an extreme generalisation, but I have to admit, it does ring some bells.  If you accidentally bump into someone and they say “we must do lunch” or “we must get a coffee one day”, chances are you won’t set eyes on them again until you accidentally bump into them again… (more…)

Is the Government right to consider removing a foreign language from the curriculum?

As schools contemplate the removal of a second language from the national curriculum, the fast approaching Olympic Games should actually be reminding us of the importance of languages.

The government’s decision to include French as a core language at the Games demonstrates the significance of languages and communication in today’s society.

With every word spoken at the games repeated in French, Great Britain will seem diverse, cultured, and prepared for the international visitors who have arrived on our doorstep to watch the games. Can we say the same about our school pupils, however? (more…)

How many words are in your vocabulary?

I have to say, if asked, I would find it difficult to say how many Spanish or French words I know. An article on the BBC website reported that Fabio Capello recently claimed he uses just 100 English words to communicate with players. (more…)

Where to Find Free Foreign Language Lessons Online

If you are interested in learning a new language or improving your existing skills, there are many free online resources that can help. A number of schools, including MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Utah State University, have begun to offer free foreign language courses online. Free lessons can also be found through the BBC and the many foreign language learning networks that have cropped up on the web. This article provides a list of 15 places to find free foreign language lessons online:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers over 60 courses in foreign languages and literature. Users can find courses in Spanish, Chinese, Spanish, German, and Japanese.

The Open University – The Open University’s modern language unit features courses for Spanish, German, English, and French. Courses are available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced level language learners.

Utah State University – Utah State University offers several free online courses in languages, philosophy, and speech communication. Two courses that are particularly popular are the Chinese I and Chinese II language courses.

(more…)

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