The Linguist

The Linguist 56,3 – June/July 2017

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/56 No/3 2017 NEWS & EDITORIAL Languages should be compulsory in Northern Ireland primary schools, according to a new report. Although language education has been a statutory requirement in schools in England and Wales since 2014, the rules do not extend to Northern Ireland. Researchers at Stranmillis University College surveyed more than 100 schools in the country and found "a lack of equity in provision". Commissioned by the Northern Ireland Languages Council, the report said the development of language skills was "vital for economic prosperity, social cohesion and the acceptance of diverse cultural identities." China sets 80% goal for Mandarin The Chinese Government has announced that it wants 80% of citizens to speak Putonghua (Mandarin) by 2020. In a statement released on 3 April, the Ministry of Education's State Language Committee said it would increase efforts to teach Mandarin to the nearly 400 million people in China who can't speak the language. This was necessary to meet China's development goals, it said, and to preserve social harmony and the unity of the nation. Although 90% of citizens in urban areas speak Mandarin, that figure drops to 40% or lower in some rural areas, suggesting there is a "huge gap" between different regions. All new teachers in China will now be required to pass a standard Mandarin speaking test, with online learning resources available to help teachers in minority ethnic areas. The Government's ongoing drive to promote the national language has been met with resistance from speakers of other languages. In Xinjiang, for instance, an influx of Mandarin teachers has increased tensions in recent years. Possibly in an effort to diffuse dissent, the State Language Committee also called for the 'scientific preservation' of the languages of ethnic minorities, but that may do little to reassure those who fear that their culture and language is at risk. Bias of machine translation Primary schools: Northern Ireland Ukrainian gains on national TV The Government of Ukraine has moved a step closer to its aim of securing Ukrainian as the nation's primary language with a controversial new language law. The bill, which has yet to receive presidential approval, will mean that 75% of national TV broadcasts are in Ukrainian. Russian currently dominates the country's media. Language has become a highly political issue in Ukraine, and opinion was divided over the draft law. Some broadcasters heralded it as "a historic event", while others argued that it violates the rights of Ukraine's Russian speakers. In September, a Council of Europe report stated that an existing quota of 50% violated EU legislation and was too high. Translation software such as Google Translate adopts cultural bias, according to a new study. Researchers at the universities of Stanford and Bath developed a word-embedding association test (WEAT) to find out whether machine translators and search engines output discriminatory language. After studying millions of words, they found a strong gender bias in programs that use a statistical approach to language comprehension. For example, Google Translate rendered the Turkish phrase O bir doktor as 'he is a doctor' and O bir hemsire as 'she is a nurse', even though the language does not have gender- specific pronouns. Racist associations were also common, with names typically given to white Americans, such as Brett and Allison, linked to positive words like 'love' and 'laughter', and names typically used by African Americans, such as Alonzo and Shaniqua, linked to negative words like 'failure'. Reporting on their study in the journal Science, the academics warned: "Already, popular online translation systems incorporate some of the biases we study. If machine- learning technologies used for, say, résumé screening were to imbibe cultural stereotypes, it may result in prejudiced outcomes." Read the report at YANGZHOU SCHOOL Poster urges 'Speak Putonghua… use civilised language' The latest from the languages world VMENKOV VIA WIKIPEDIA (CC BY-SA 4.0) HÅKAN HENRIKSSON VIA WIKIPEDIA (CC BY 3.0)

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