The Linguist

The Linguist 57,4 - August/September 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 5 'Smart Knows That's Not English – How adland took a mallet to the language', 14/5/18 Today's language-mangling ad campaigns run the greasy gamut from the somewhat confusing "Live your unexpected Luxembourg" to the head-scratching "Start your impossible". "In adland, we don't call it language-mangling, we call it 'Language DJing' or 'Langling'," jokes Alex Myers, founder of agency Manifest. "In reality it's just lazy creative work." What the papers say… 'World Cup 2018: How do Belgian footballers speak to each other?', 2/7/18 Players speak neither Dutch nor French but English in the changing room, to avoid the perception of favouring one language over another. They also speak English on the pitch, much to the surprise of many in the UK press during their game with England… "English is often perceived as a 'safe middle ground," Dutch-speaking Belgian BBC journalist Suzanne Vanhooymissen says."By using English as a common language, organisations, and indeed the Belgian national team, cannot be accused of favouring either Dutch or French over the other and opening up simmering linguistic divides." 'Computers will Make Interpreters Obsolete, Lord Chief Predicts', 8/6/18 Simultaneous translation by computers will put courtroom interpreters out of a job 'within a few years' the lord chief justice has said… Lord Burnett of Maldon described artificial intelligence as the 'transformative technology of our age' which would drive change in the justice system long after the current controversial reform programme ends. The latest from the languages world NEWS & EDITORIAL In the media PHILIP HARDING-ESCH There was mixed news for interpreters, as colleagues in the European Parliament went on strike due to "unilateral" changes to their working conditions (Politico); while, in the UK, important progress was made for Afghan interpreters, whose immigration fees were waived and their relocation scheme extended (The Telegraph, BBC). The annual Language Trends report on the status of modern foreign languages (MFL) in England's schools was widely reported in June: "a third of state schools allow pupils to opt out of languages in year 9" (SchoolsWeek); "Spanish exam entries on track to surpass French" (The Guardian); Brexit has led some parents and pupils to question "the value of studying modern languages" (TES). Worryingly, schools in poorer areas "are more than three times as likely as schools in the most affluent areas to have low uptake for language GCSEs" (BBC), a headache for the Department for Education's social mobility agenda and its ambitions to achieve 90% take-up at GCSE. C&IT decried a "growing language skills gap facing the UK tourism industry" due to a "combination of Brexit and the decline of language training in the UK". Can we keep neglecting homegrown language skills when employers are reporting that many EU employees are starting to return home? Several stories branched out of the human domain: Koko, the "gorilla who mastered sign language", died (BBC); while studies showed that "two-way conversations like the ones that humans engage in are found throughout the animal kingdom" (The Independent). The Week reported on linguists arguing that "there is a universal grammar of languages on Earth, and that this grammar may extend to extraterrestrial languages" – allowing us "to communicate with aliens". Quite mind-boggling, but also rather ambitious considering "in Blaenau Gwent, Wales, nobody has taken an A Level MFL subject in 5 years" (Nation Cymru)! Philip Harding-Esch is a freelance languages project manager and consultant. Peak learning age revised The "critical period" for learning a second language is longer than previously believed, according to a study published in May. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that young people have a high proficiency for language-learning until the age of 17-18, and can achieve "native-like" ability as long as they start learning by age 10. Using data from 670,000 participants in a Facebook quiz on English-language grammar, the cognitive scientists were able to show that language-learning aptitude does not decline as early or as dramatically as thought, remaining strong until adulthood. "We don't see very much difference between people who start at birth and people who start at 10," explained researcher Joshua Hartshorne. The study did not attempt to establish the reasons for the decline at 17-18, and co-author Josh Tenenbaum stressed that a range of factors could be involved. At that age, "you leave your home, maybe you work full time, or you become a specialised university student. All of those might impact your learning rate for any language," he said. SIGN OF THE TIMES British Sign Language (BSL) was used by a Minister in Parliament for the first time in July, as Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, used BSL and English to announce a global disability conference in London. Opposition MP Dawn Butler became the first politician to use the language in Parliament last year.

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