The Linguist

The Linguist 53,1

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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When we went to prison most of us were not speaking Afrikaans. I argued with Mandela about whether we should study the language. He'd say: 'Let's do it together.' I'd say I'm not interested in this language, first of all it's not even an international language, and second it's the language of the oppressor. He'd reply: 'Look, man, we're in for a long struggle, a protracted struggle. It's going to be a war of attrition.' He'd say: 'How are we going to lead the enemy forces into an ambush? To do that we look at the enemy's commander and try to understand him. To do that, we've got to read his literature, read his poetry. So shall we study Afrikaans?' 'The Nelson Mandela I knew', 6/12/13 What the papers say… Coláiste Feirste is the showpiece of a drive to revive a language whose use in everyday speech virtually died out in Northern Ireland in the mid-20th century… Since peace and the devolution of power, the status of the language has changed dramatically. Across Northern Ireland nearly 5,000 children receive Irish-medium education. That is still less than 2% of the total school population – but the figure understates the profile and political muscle that Irish-medium teaching enjoys. 'In the Trenches of a Language War', 21/12/13 What French novelist has made it into the Anglophone market? Even the 2008 Nobel literature prize-winner Jean-Marie Le Clezio is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world… 'Our problem is image. In the US we are famous for French deconstructionism and so on. They think we are too intellectual. They think we are fixated with theory, and that we can't tell stories – but we can!' It is the same refrain from every author I speak to. All are well-known names in France – Marie Darrieussecq, Nelly Alard, Philippe Labro – but none has been published with any success in the UK or the US. 'Why Don't French Books Sell Abroad?', 9/12/13 Vol/53 No/1 2014 FEBRUARY/MARCH The Linguist 7 Languages are going up the political agenda, says Philip Harding-Esch Inside parliament It is clear that languages are increasingly coming to the attention of MPs and peers in a variety of contexts. Languages have been mentioned in discussions about immigration and inclusion; privatised interpreting services in the law courts; the UK's interests in the EU and overseas; and, above all, the economy and the importance of exports. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages held two meetings in the final quarter of 2013, both of which touched on these issues. In October, the group considered languages in the workplace. John Wastnage, of the British Chambers of Commerce, presented the report 'Knowledge Gaps and Language Skills Hold Back Exporters' ( and Juliet Park gave her perspective from working with 500 schools running the UK's largest NVQ language centre. While the British Chambers of Commerce are sending strong signals that language skills need to be improved, they note that many businesses do not understand the value of languages. Similarly, the current focus on academic qualifications has been a real challenge for the NVQ model championed by Park. Both called for business advocates and clearer qualifications. In December, the APPG looked at the future of language degrees in the UK: the number of universities offering such degrees has fallen by 40 percent since 1998. Prof Jim Coleman, of the Open University, presented alongside Nicola Dandridge, of Universities UK (UUK). A challenge for language degrees is that universities need to respond to student choice and stimulate demand, and four-year degrees are perceived to be expensive. The good news is that existing specialist degrees are highly regarded, and there are increasing numbers of non-specialist language students. Recent rises in the rate of outward mobility should be boosted by UUK's strategy to get more students to experience life abroad. Nevertheless, there is a real concern for the future. In both meetings, debate referred to what is happening at A-level, and therefore at Key Stages 2-4 (ages 7-16) – and of the need for coherence at policy level. The APPG will continue its efforts in 2014. Two high-profile parliamentarians – Stephen Twigg MP and Lord Digby Jones – joined as Qualifying Members this October. And with the launch of the APPG's website in spring, the group will be engaging more widely both in and out of Parliament. Contact for details of future meetings, to have your say, and to listen to what parliamentarians and others are saying about language policy in the UK. Philip Harding-Esch works on behalf of the British Council to support the APPG. NEWS & EDITORIAL © I S TOCKPHOTO

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