The Linguist

The Linguist 54,3

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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6 The Linguist Vol/54 No/3 2015 NEWS & EDITORIAL Alan Eyre, the US State Department's Persian language spokesperson, enjoys near- celebrity status in Iran due to his impressive knowledge of Iranian literature. Eyre, who speaks formal Farsi, often flavours his responses with a handful of ancient Persian expressions and a line of poetry to get his message across. That resonates with many in Iran… Eyre, a former head of the Iran desk at the US consulate in Dubai, was appointed as a Persian language spokesperson in 2011. It was part of Barack Obama's attempt to reach out to Iranians while relations were deteriorating under Ahmadinejad. 'Gained in Translation: Obama's Persian language spokesman wins fans in Iran', 29/4/15 What the papers say… It is becoming easier to win a place on language degree courses at top universities because of dwindling application numbers, research suggests. Analysis of the elite Russell Group universities, which include Oxford and Cambridge, shows a sharp drop in applications for European language courses in the last five years… As a result, a higher proportion of applicants is now being accepted – with the share increasing from 28% to almost half at Cambridge. 'For a Top University Place, Try Studying a Language', 8/5/15 [TED's] Open Translation Project mobilizes volunteers and, after six years of operations, has completed 70,000 translations in 107 languages, with the help of almost 20,000 translators. To ensure the accuracy and quality of translations, TED enlists the help of four volunteers for each translation. First, the original text is transcribed in English. Then, another volunteer translates the text into another language. After the initial translation is reviewed by a third volunteer, it is reviewed again and approved by an experienced 'language coordinator'. '5 Ways for Brands to Go Global and Resonate with Locals', 5/6/15 Philip Harding-Esch: Is 'people power' driving support for exams in lesser taught languages? Inside Parliament Recent events have shown that it is possible to get languages up the political agenda – when the timing is right and people campaign together. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages used its final two meetings before the end of the last Parliament to look at 'lesser taught languages' – their strategic importance to the UK and how well they are supported in the education system. The second meeting coincided with announcements by exam boards that they would discontinue GCSEs and A levels in many such languages from 2017, for a variety of reasons including issues with the new specifications and low uptake. Such was the strength of feeling about this that a debate was tabled in the Commons led by MP Nick de Bois. MPs from both sides of the House agreed that these qualifications should be protected. Not only is there a fundamental social issue in supporting children with a background in these languages, but recent studies from the British Council, EU Select Committee and Lords Soft Power Committee identify the importance of 'non traditional' foreign languages to UK trade, diplomacy, security and influence in the world. With university language departments increasingly facing closure, there is a real concern that the UK is about to lose expertise that cannot readily be restored. At the Commons debate, the Schools Minister pledged to raise the issue with the Department for Education (DfE). Communities and language professionals campaigned to save the exams, contacting MPs, press and exam boards. On 26 March, Tristram Hunt committed the Labour Party to saving them; a month later, the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, said that a Conservative government would do the same. A rare instance of people power perhaps? It is certainly encouraging to see linguists, communities, politicians and other groups aligning themselves to bring such an issue up the political agenda. But the announcements by both major parties do not guarantee the future of these key qualifications. There remain very real challenges even with political support: the new exam specification will be challenging for small-entry languages, and the way the exam boards are set up means they cannot be forced into a decision. It is therefore important that the campaign continues. For details, see the Speak to the Future website: Email to receive details of meeting and speakers. Philip Harding-Esch works on behalf of the British Council to support the APPG. TL CONSENSUS Tristram Hunt pledged his support for the exams 'T RISTRAMHUNT MP', CENTREFORCITIES, 12/7/12 VIA FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

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