The Linguist

The Linguist 56,4 – August/September 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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Page 28 of 35 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 29 OPINION & COMMENT In the media PHILIP HARDING-ESCH The general election in May was the 'Brexit' election, and languages were part of the debate. Just days before the vote, the European Commission President, Jean- Claude Juncker, announced that English is losing importance in Europe – the first time concerns about Britain's linguistic competences in international relations made the UK headlines. On the Today programme, Peter Ammon, the German Ambassador to the UK, decried that "the readiness to learn a foreign language is declining in this country," quoting John Le Carré, who described learning languages as "an act of friendship". Dr Ammon's alarm at the 50% fall in the number of students learning German was borne out in the latest Language Trends survey. Both BBC News and the TES led on the finding that there is a growing north-south divide in modern foreign languages (MFL) education, with students in London 50% more likely to be learning a language than those in the North East. Language skills in the health sector made headlines, as the BBC reported on an Italian nurse who was struck off for having such poor English that her colleagues were "forced to mime" to communicate. But the stringent language tests now imposed on overseas recruits are contributing to the 96% drop in nurse applicants from the EU, according to The Guardian. There were encouraging signs from the younger generations, with the TES reporting that 97% of 8-25 year olds are in favour of British Sign Language (BSL) being taught in schools. Meanwhile, pop artiste du jour Christine and the Queens described herself as a "Trojan horse", sharing her plans to "sneak" more languages into her new album with BBC Newsbeat. The Independent cited research which shows that bilinguals experience time differently to monolinguals, and are more "flexible thinkers". Flexible thinking is definitely needed in these challenging times! Philip Harding-Esch is a freelance languages project manager and consultant. FINLAY MCWALTER VIA WIKIPEDIA (CC BY-SA 3.0) In answer to David Leighton's letter about chess pieces (TL56,3), the naming of chess pieces in different languages is fascinating, not to mention the history of chess itself. I have always admired chess sets such as the chessmen from the Isle of Lewis (pictured) or the delicately carved sets produced by the East India Company. The standard Staunton set, which is used in international matches today, dates from the 19th century and was devised in London. It has the advantage of being well balanced and easily recognisable (the knight is based on the Elgin Marbles). The names given to the pieces vary enormously across languages (for names in 77 languages, see TS/nap-pieces.htm), and reflect the history of the game, which goes back to 6th-century India. It metamorphosed via Persia and the Arab world, and was eventually introduced into Europe through Moorish Spain. The original game of chaturanga contained four military divisions: infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots. As Mr Leighton describes, the elephant often appears with a howdah on its back, which may explain the evolution into the castle, though the term 'rook' derives from the Persian rukh, which actually refers to the chariot. The board today may be inhabited variously by viziers, messengers, jesters, standard bearers and even riflemen. The position of the pieces, and even the permitted moves, have changed down the ages, though the phrase 'checkmate' has changed very little. Then, of course, there is Chinese chess, xiangqi, which is a whole new board game with its fortress, river, offensive and defensive pieces, plus the wonderful cannon, which replaces the rook and can actually fire the full length of the board over friendly pieces. But that's another story. Professor Tim Connell FCIL, CIOL Vice-President The elephant on the board Continue the discussion online @Linguist_CIOL #TheLinguist Email BBC: on course I am enjoying the BBC Talk German Complete course that I received from The Linguist [Star Letter prize, TL56,1]. A very attractively assembled course that is easy to follow, it takes gentle expression- building to a new, refined level. Nigel Pearce MCIL

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